In less than a month, the world’s oldest democracy will exercise their democratic right to choose their next leader.
Presidential debates are an integral part of the electoral procedures in the United States of America. On 29th September, more than 70 million people watched the first of three debates for the 59th quadrennial presidential election.
However, this debate did not exactly pan out as people expected. Majority of the population concluded that it was the worst presidential debate of all time.
Some eminent personalities did not hesitate in sharing their honest views. CNN’s Dana Bash said the debate was a “shitshow”, while a panelist in ABC News said it was the “worst presidential debate I’ve ever seen,” on air.
Abrupt interruptions, chaotic situations, rhetorical arguments – there was plenty wrong with the debate. However, beyond all the wrongs was the righteous fight of a person with stutter (PWS).
Biden, dodging through a series of interruptions, held fast to his ground and did not let his disability come in the way of what he needed to address.
The Story of Joe Biden’s Stuttering
Around six decades before Joe Biden became the vice-president, he was called “Joe Impedimenta.”
Not only the class bullies, but even a nun made fun of his speech impediment.
After stuttering on a word during a reading lesson, she called him “Buh-Buh-Buh-Biden.”
Little Joe darted out of the room.
With an indomitable desire to fight back, Biden promised himself that he will never let his disfluency define him.
He found solace in the works of great poets like Ralph Waldo Emerson and William Butler Yeats.
Biden did not receive speech therapy, but on the advice of some nuns, he started speaking in a rhythm.
Though he still stutters occasionally, the speaking technique worked wonders for him.
How Biden Fought Against Two Adversaries At Once
During the debate, Biden was not justlooking to win against Donald Trump.
He was also trying to win his fight against his fear of public speaking, which is a highly feared activity among PWS.
Various factors curb the fluency of an individual with stutter while speaking. Abrupt interruptions, sudden change of conversational subject, personal attacks and bringing up past trauma are all trigger points of stuttering.
On 29th September, not one factor from the list was missing.
Throughout the debate, Biden had to deal with abrupt interruptions.
Such was the frequency of interruptions that moderator Chris Wallace had to intervene on multiple occasions. The Fox News host lost their patience on one occasion. He told the President “Frankly, you’ve been doing more interrupting.”
There was no dearth of personal attacks as well. He saw his academic record being ridiculed, as the President said: “You graduated either the lowest or almost the lowest in your class.”
His intelligence quotient was questioned, as Trump said “There’s nothing smart about you. (sic) 47 years you’ve done nothing.”
Biden’s family was also brought into the conversation.
The President tried to attack his family by talking about the international business ventures of Biden’s son, Hunter.
The continuous interruptions and personal attacks are open to interpretation. Some might feel they were spontaneous. Others might opine they were pre-planned, to make Biden nervous on stage.
However, that calls for another debate which we don’t fancy. What was the most important takeaway from the debate was how Biden handled the situation.
Despite being knocked down on multiple occasions, he came back fighting.
As a kid, his parents told him “The measure of a man isn’t how often he is knocked down but how quickly he gets up.”
Perhaps, amidst the halts and hollering on 29th September, this bit of advice is what kept him going.
Biden – A Synonym of Hope for PWS
Time will tell whether Biden will become the hope of 332 million Americans. However, he already has established himself as a hope for 70 million PWS across the world.
As a kid, little Joe fought with bullies and nuns who bullied him. As a young adult, he fought with employees who declined him a job because of his disfluency.
At 77, Joe Biden is still ever-so-stern in his relentless fights against anyone and everyone who tries to attack his disfluency to bring him down.
His perseverance and unremitting comebacks are bound to inspire many. As he wrote in a letter to Stuttering Foundation of America –
“When you commit yourself to a goal and when you persevere in the face of struggle, you will discover new strengths and skills to help you overcome not only this challenge but future life challenges as well. I promise you – you have nothing to be ashamed of, and you have every reason to be proud.”
Biden’s performance in the debate may or may not help him gain some votes. However, he surely did gain a lot of respect and admiration for his valiant fight against disfluency and demeanour.